Brush past spider webs and dusty shrines and immerse yourself in Tokyo’s best kept secret.
As I stand motionless in a trance watching a spider hypnotically spin its web I’m hit by an odd sensation. Absolute nothingness. I can’t hear Tokyo. I close my eyes and instead feel the sound of water splashing against rocks and nature breathing peacefully.
Not to sound like a hippy, but Todoroki truly is a special place. It’s the only natural gorge left in Tokyo, and somewhere that has surprised me more than anywhere else I’ve been to in this vast city. Some know about it, some don’t. But anyone who has been there agrees with me: it’s quite unlike anywhere else.
Just five miles away lies Shibuya’s hectic scramble crossing: the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world. Eight miles away, Shinjuku Station, with an average of 3.5 million people passing through its doors every day. The busiest train station on the planet. In this sense, Todoroki shouldn’t be here. It’s too calm. It’s too peaceful. It’s too perfect. It’s a surreal yet welcoming oasis: Tokyo’s most unconventional green space.
Tokyo is filled to the brim with nondescript little areas. Each train station in the city is essentially the core of a little town. So with 924 stations in Tokyo, that’s 924 little (or big) towns. It really is hard to portray the size of this city. Todoroki is just one of these stations, and just one of these little ‘towns’. As soon as you step off the train you immediately feel the difference: with its family-run stores and bamboo train crossings, stations like this are the lifeblood of the real Tokyo, and it’s a shame that many visitors will not experience these mini pockets of daily life.
Todoroki Valley is just a short walk from the station and features a 1.2 km walking trail scattered with hidden temples and mossy waterfalls. Of course nature and solitude exists near Tokyo: Takao, Oyama… but this place feels different. I think it’s because it’s right in the heart of the city. The trail culminates in a journey through a Japanese bamboo garden and finishes with a pristine clearing offering views of distant Yokohama. Sitting here in silence, I was approached by an elderly man who offered me green tea with a smile. I watched as a father taught his toddler son how to walk on the grass.
I myself had a bit of a zen moment here for the first time in my life. For this reason it’s somewhere I will never forget going to, and it’s a comfort to know such a place exists. If you are visiting Tokyo for the first time, or have been living here for years, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Todoroki Gorge is a five-minute walk from Todoroki Station on the Tokyu Oimachi Line. Take the exit that isn’t McDonalds and walk down the street. The entrance to the ravine is on your right.
Shout out to Ben who told me about this place.
Thanks – this has made me want to come back to Tokyo again.